London: The UK and France have signed a major deal with a multinational European arms manufacturer to upgrade long-range missiles used by their air forces.
Harriett Baldwin, the British minister for military purchases, announced the £146 million deal on Wednesday, after a series of meetings with Laurent Collet-Billon, her visiting French counterpart.
Under the contract, MBDA — formed by a merger of French Aérospatiale-Matra Missiles, Italian Alenia Marconi Systems and British Matra BAe Dynamics—will refurbish the UK’s Storm Shadow and France’s SCALP missiles.
Used by the Royal Air Force, or RAF, the Storm Shadow is MBDA’s low-observable, air-launched cruise missile, which has a range of approximately 560 kilometers (300 nautical miles). SCALP is the French air force’s version of the missile.
The £790,000 missile can be carried by British Tornado jets, as well as France’s Dassault Mirage 2000 and Dassault Rafale. It was last used against purported Daesh (ISIL) positions in Iraq.
The investment would keep the missiles operational until 2023.
“Storm Shadow is a proven and vital missile for the RAF, and this £146 million upgrade will ensure it is always ready for whenever our Armed Forces might need it to defend our way of life,” Baldwin said.
“This contract is an important part of the Government’s £178 billion plan to ensure our armed forces have the right equipment at the right time,” she added.
According to a statement by the UK Defense Department, the deal would save both sides £50 million, while saving 60 jobs in MBDA’s Stevenage and Bolton facilities.
Calling France “the UK’s most important European Ally,” the statement added that together, the two countries accounted for almost half of all European military spending.
Collet-Billon also hailed the deal, calling it a “new step” in military cooperation between the two countries.
“This deep-strike missile mid-life update was jointly prepared. It represents a new step in the Franco-British cooperation roadmap and strengthens the Franco-British strategic partnership in the armament field,” he said.